Kushari - The Egyptian Street Food (Video)
Growing up watching Egyptian movies, Kushari was always present one way or another in reference to street or home-made food. In absence of technological advancements such as the internet and beloved google, which came decades later, and the limited exposure to other cultures, I was left curious as to what kushari was and what flavours and texture it had. So luck finally struck in my twenties, when I had the opportunity to travel to Cairo. I was amazed by the simplicity of this dish; rice, lentils, chickpeas and pasta topped with a delicious spicy tomato sauce and a generous topping of sweet fried onions. It is so basic, yet so satisfying and delicious. If one was to write an essay about Egypt, kushari for sure would be named its national dish.
Legumes and grains, once the diet of the poor, have been a staple diet in the Mediterranean region for centuries if not millennia, enjoyed by all walks of life. Chickpeas have finally found their deserving rank amongst others. It is rich in minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron and folate which help form new cells. It is a perfect natural supplement for pregnant women…So ladies, if you are expecting please eat more of it. It is also high in vitamin Bs, a source of fuel, fibre which maintains a healthy gut and regularity, and protein, although it lacks the amino acids found in meat. It is low in calories, help one feel full, and in return reduce one’s appetite. Lentils is another healthy option at the table because it has low Glycemic index GI which means it helps maintain and steady blood sugar. As it is rich in fibre, it helps the digestive system and lowers cholesterol levels. It is high in protein, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, B1 and B6. The saying "small but mighty" surely applies to this tiny grain.
Warning!!! This dish is so filling and will fuel you for the day. ENJOY.
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Start to finish: 55 minutes
2 cups short grain white rice, soaked in water for 3 hours
1 cup cooked brown lentils with cooking water reserved for reheating
2 cups elbow macaroni
2 cups cooked chickpeas water reserved for reheating
1/2 cup vermicelli pasta
Vegetable oil as needed
Salt to taste
For Tasha (sauce):
4 tablespoons olive oil
7 cloves minced garlic
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 litre fresh tomato, peeled and pureed or ½ litre pureed stewed tinned tomato
1 chili pepper optional
2 teaspoons cumin powder
coriander leaf for garnish
* Wash the rice under cold water until the water runs clear and drain.
* In a small pot heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and add the vermicelli pasta stirring until it starts to turn golden brown. At this point add the rice and stir again with 2 teaspoons of sea salt. After 1 minute of stirring, add water following the recommendation of the rice brand you are using plus 1/2 cup of water for the vermicelli.
* Close the lid and cook following the manufacturer’s instructions. When the water has evaporated, remove from heat and turn the rice once with a wooden spoon then leave aside covered with a kitchen towel until ready to use.
* Slice the onions and deep fry them on high heat until light brown and crispy. Drain on paper towel.
* If cooking lentils and chickpeas from scratch, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Remember when cooking chickpeas to soak them overnight in plenty of water and add 1 teaspoon baking soda to the water when starting the cooking process. If using tinned cooked lentils and chickpeas, just bring them to a boil.
* For the Tasha (sauce), heat the oil and fry the garlic until it starts changing colour. Add the vinegar, stir, and then add the pureed stewed tomato and cumin. Season to taste and add the chili. It needs to cook for at least 15 minutes to thicken up.
* Cook the pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions and drain.
* Now the dish is ready for assembling. On a serving plate layer the vermicelli rice, topped with the drained lentils, then with the pasta and finally the chickpeas, at this point pour the Tasha on top and garnish with the fried onions and coriander.
* For a speedy dinner use organic tinned lentils and chickpeas.
* Double the tomato sauce if you would like extra served at the table.
* The onions can be fried several days ahead and kept in an air tight container.
* Feel free to use any type of pasta or rice. All the flavour is in the sauce.
Per Serving: 777 Calories; 14g Fat (16.6% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 134g Carbohydrate; 24g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 31mg Sodium.